Released in 1935 by Universal Pictures, The Bride of Frankenstein saw Boris Karloff return to reprise is famous role as well as Colin Clive in the role of Henry Frankenstein. Started after the success of the first film the second installment was delayed for a number of years due to issues with the script. We also see the return of James Whale to the director’s chair after coming off the success of the Invisible Man. I actually feel that The Bride of Frankenstein is the best of the Classic Universal Frankenstein films that star Karloff.
Opening with a throw away scene with Mary Shelly (Elsa Lanchester) continuing her story of Frankenstein to Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) and Percy Shelly (Douglas Walton). The film then resumes where the previous one left off. At the sight of the fire the Monster (Boris Karloff) has survived in the flooded basement. The father of drowned girl wanting to see the monster bones for closer stays behind as Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is rushed away. He becomes the monster first victim in this installment and he is quickly followed by his wife, who the monster throws in the ruined basement. This is witnessed by Minnie (Una O’Conner) who flees in terror. She flees to the Frankenstein castle where Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson) is taking care of the injured Frankenstein and tries to warn everybody. But as normal the warning is unheeded. As Frankenstein recuperates he renounces his work on creating life and is visited by his former mentor Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger), who wishes for Frankenstein to return to his work and collaborate with him. Hesitant Frankenstein eventually relents and visits Pretorius’s lab to inspect Pretorius’s work. Pretorius has managed to create a menagerie of tiny people that he has grown from scratch. Henry relents and agrees to work with Pretorius with Pretorius growing the brain for the Monster Bride. While this is happening the Monster wandering the countryside saves a woman from drowning, but frighten she calls for help and the Monster is shot by a pair of hunters before he escapes. He later comes across the home of a blind hermit (O.P. Heggie), who takes the Monster in and befriends him. The two spend some time together and the hermit starts to teach the Monster to speak. This is ended when the lost hunters find the home and recognize the Monster. In the fight the creature accidentally sets fire to the home burning it down as the hunters lead the hermit to safety. Hiding from the mob that has followed him from the hermit’s home, he spies as Dr. Pretorius is working on gathering the “resources” for his and Frankensteins new ventures. Pretorius meets the Monster taking him in and telling him of his plans to create a mate for him. Pretorius visits Frankenstein for him to perform his role in their collaboration, but Frankenstein refuses. Pretorius calls in the Monster again, Frankenstein refuses. So Pretorius sends away the Monster, who secretly goes and kidnaps Elizabeth. Now forced into helping Frankenstein does his part leading to the creation of The Bride and the explosive conclusion.
Ernest Thesiger is a major part of why I feel this film is superior to its predecessor. As a mad, self-described devil he plays very well off both Karloff and Clive. Thesiger’s character, Dr. Pretorius is comic and light-hearted attitude. His relationship with Frankenstein as well as the monster serve as a nice example of characters being coded-gay. A practice common then as it is now. Gay characters having to be implied via sub-text, but this is a subject for another time as it’s an expansive subject, Dating back to at least 1912 with Algie the Miner and 1919’s Different from the Others which had a progressively sympathetic message on the subject for the time.
Something I don’t understand is how the Bride became such a Cult Horror icon as she has a very small role in the movie its self. Not appearing until the end of the film and has no spoken lines, she just screams. I often get confused when people try to describe their relationship as romantic, as she ultimately rejects him. Which leads to her destruction as her character is not again seen in the Universal Classic films. It’s not until Mad Monster Party in 1967 that the character appears again on-screen.
Final thoughts, I love everything about it. The special effects are impressive for the time with Pretorius lab being a stand out scene. Frankenstein has a more noticeable character arc, even showing conflicting emotions. Karloff does an even more impressive job with the role. This is due to him having actual dialog. This is the film I would recommend to the casual horror fan who wants to get into the older Universal Classic. An endearing class and a film with not only worth remembering, but continued discussion. The Bride of Frankenstein gets an outstanding 8.5/10.